Dave Hannah doing a bent-arm pullover with 430 lbs. He has made 455. This was performed on a bench 16" high and he started with the weight on his chest, then lowered it till it almost touched the floor and pulled it back over his head and chest.
Effective Methods of Training Down (1971)
by Anthony Ditillo
If you are one of the many lifters or bodybuilders who are trying to, or have tried in the past, to lose excess weight either for lifting competition or a physique contest, you have my deepest sympathy. No, I am not trying to be sarcastic with such a remark. On the contrary, I feel for you fellows like nobody else can, because I have experienced myself the frustrating feeling of having my muscle size slowly diminish, along with my power, while trying to lose weight. It is truly a heartbreaking occurrence when a guy knocks himself out for months on end, trying to really build up additional size and power, only to lose this size and power when competition time rolls around again. It doesn’t seem fair, really. It’s as though somebody is not ‘playing the game’ as it were. But as unfair as it may seem, and is, there is really nothing one can do in such a situation (up until now) except to accept the size and power decreasement as the price one must pay for a truly muscularly impressive and strong physique.
In the past, I myself have tried many training down programs and while I seemed to be partly successful each and every time, I never really struck paydirt’ as the saying goes. Sure, I always managed to lose the excess weight, once I made myself stick to the particular type of diet I was about to experiment with at the time, but whenever I would lose any significant amount of excess bodyweight, along with this positive reduction would go a good deal of muscle and strength as well as the fat.
To be sure, there are various ways in which to train down to a lighter bodyweight. This goes for weightlifters, powerlifters and bodybuilding enthusiasts as well as the normal, everyday health-conscious reader. All can benefit from this article and this is why I am so happy to be able to bring you fellows the great news. Believe me, this is just what you have been waiting for. Just bear with me for a while, while I go through the already accepted methods of weight reduction showing their good points as well as their bad points and how to reap as much of a positive gain from their proper utilization as you possibly can. The reason for my going into these various details is to the benefit of the ‘new recruit’, for the fellow who may be dieting for the first time and doesn’t even know where to begin. Besides, I have always said in my past articles, he’s the man (the beginner or intermediate) who I am most interested in anyway.
The first method of bodyweight reduction which we will be taking into consideration will theoretically be considered the easiest to follow as far as mechanics are concerned. This is the CALORIE COUNTING method. By using this type of dietary regime, the trainee will simply purchase a calorie counter at the nearest drug or department store and shall endeavor to count the calories contained in everything he eats or drinks each and every day. In order to determine just how many calories are allotted to him in order for him to reach his bodyweight goal, he usually is advised within the book to check his caloric requirements which are listed next to his ideal weight at the beginning of the book. Let us suppose then that he is told that may ingest 1500 calories per day. The only thing to take into consideration now would be therefore just how would the calories be divided up? Certainly, 1500 calories is 1500 calories, or is it?
Suppose two men were going on a diet. They had similar builds, similar metabolism, similar bodyweight, etc., and they both were going to go on a 1500 calorie per day diet to lose excess weight. Now the first fellow ate whatever and whenever he pleased. He partook of protein, fats and carbohydrates. He was sure, however, not to go above 1500 calories. He also exercised quite regularly with the weights. The second man, who was also training with weights, decided to partake mainly of high protein foods, leaving a few hundred calories left for the intake and enjoyment of carbohydrates. Now, I ask you, who do you think would be dieting properly. The answer is NEITHER.
When taking into consideration the necessities of a properly executed diet, we must remember that basically we need two types of food for our bodies: we need fuel to grow on and fuel to ‘go’ on. This means that although we must always be sure to obtain the necessary protein in our diet for adequate muscle growth, we also need foods to supply us with the necessary energy not only for our exercise periods but for our everyday living as well. The truth is that as far as we lifting enthusiasts are concerned, many, many times we miss up on the energy foods when we are dieting. This leads to many pitfalls in our training routine by way of lack of training desire or endurance, lack of pep, endless anxiety and frustration, lack of proper sleep, lack of confidence in our training capabilities and most important of all, an unhealthy, mono-faceted ‘fad’ diet which in the long run will bring us nothing but internal harm!
In comparing both types of diets which I have just outlined for you, in my opinion one is just as bad as the other. Let me explain just what I mean. The first diet, in which the man consumes whatever it is he wishes providing he does not go over 1500 calories, is the worst. In using this type of diet you can never be sure or certain that you are getting all the necessary nutrients for good health, let alone proper muscle growth or maintenance. Needless to say, such a diet might be alright from a convenience point of view, but from a healthy lifter’s point of view it is far off the beaten track. On this type of diet, if you wished to, you could eat 1500 calories worth of pizza pie and as long as you ate nothing else for the rest of the day you would be keeping your diet. But what about the necessary vitamins and minerals which everyone needs daily and in large doses for the proper maintenance of the body? What about the protein requirements of such a weight trainee? Could he be positive he was obtaining a correct amount for proper growth muscle-wise? The answer is no, he could not. And although this method of dieting is the most popular in this country, it is my opinion that it leaves quite a lot to be desired.
And what of the diet of trainee number two? Doesn’t the inclusion of a primarily high protein intake in such a diet guarantee that he will obtain the correct number of muscle and strength building nutrients? Doesn’t the inclusion of a moderate amount of carbohydrates and fats guarantee a balanced regimen of dietary significance? Shouldn’t this type of diet be the one to follow when one is trying to lose fat but build muscle at the same time? The answer to all these questions is a big fat ‘NO’!
Let me ask you a few questions. How many grams of complete protein do you think you can get into about 1000 calories? One lb. of lean beef has well over 1000 calories and it contains about 120 grams of protein per lb. Mild contains 32 grams of protein per quart so it would take 3 quarts to give you almost 100 grams of protein of high biological value, but the calorie content would once again be too, too high. To make a long story short, you are not going to get very many grams of complete protein in 1000 calories and this is why the second type of diet isn’t too good. You see, when you get into counting calories you are taking from Peter to pay Paul. Sure, your calorie level is low and adequate for you to lose weight with but just where will you be losing the weight from? A weightlifter or bodybuilder wants to lose fat, not useful muscle. And that is why such a diet of counting calories just will not work for him. No matter how you try to arrange it, either the amount of protein will not be high enough for proper muscular maintenance and the result would be a great loss in muscle size, or else the foodstuffs which produce training energy would be lacking and the result would be a loss of muscle power. In short, for the lifter, counting calories to lose weight will not work!
The second most popular type of diet for training down is the low carbohydrate diet. This diet centers around the ingesting of primarily protein foods while the carbohydrate is kept rather low, around 60 grams in most cases. One does not have to count calories while on this type of diet for on the low carbohydrate diet, calories don’t really count. One counts the grams of carbohydrates one ingests butt that is all. The amount of protein does not matter, and one can literally gorge oneself on steaks, eggs, fish, most cheeses and fowl. The good points in this diet are that the weight trainee is assured that he is obtaining sufficient protein in his diet for the mainstay of the diet would be primarily protein. Thus he is certain that he has enough protein to guarantee himself adequate muscle growth and repair. The sixty grams of carbohydrates give him a chance to vary his dietary schedule somewhat, by way of fruits and some vegetables (in small quantities of course) and all in all such a diet seems better than the first mentioned ‘calorie counting’ one.
However, even this type of diet has its drawbacks. For one thing, the energy level is not that much better than it was in the second trainee’s method of reducing while counting calories. Sixty grams of carbohydrates will not give you a great deal of energy, that’s for sure. And although I realize that the theory behind the low carbohydrate diet is one of utilizing your own fatty deposits for an energy fuel system while only partaking of primarily protein foods at the table, I still have not found many trainees who can thrive on such a diet for any length of time. Either their weight reduction comes to a halt or they lose training enthusiasm and endurance as well as strength. Now the average man might possible get by on only sixty grams of carbs per day. After all, he is not a weightlifter. But I sincerely doubt if the average trainee can do this. I myself have tried both the calorie counting and the high protein, low carbohydrate diets, and as I stated before, on both diets I lost excess weight, but on the calorie counting diet I also lost quite a bit of muscle, and on the high protein diet I lost quite a bit of training energy. It just seemed as though neither diet could really do the job.
This next diet is the one that I have been all along leading up to. It is the latest one I have tried and is, so far, by far the best. I ran into this theory some time ago while. Do you fellows remember a while back when the ‘high protein and cream’ diet was popular? Most claims were very impressive to say the least. And it was this diet which first prompted me to try my variation of it. I read how those famous bodybuilders would live primarily on a high protein diet mixed with cream and drunk throughout the day. Most of these fellows claimed that this type of diet really enabled them to grow like mad and also, they lost excess fat from around the midsection while their training energy really soared. Now I always understood this theory. The high protein assured the trainee that his muscles were fully nourished and the high fat (cream) part of the diet would perk up the metabolism and allow him to oxidate more body fat while the high caloric value of the cream would give the trainee more than adequate training energy. The end result: increased muscle size and strength, decreased body fat. The bodybuilder’s dream come true! The answer to the most frustrating problem of them all: how to lose excess body fat while you build or maintain muscle. So you see, it was not that I did not fully understand this particular method of weight reduction that made me go into the other various methods of weight loss, rather it was the depressing awareness that I had always loved and enjoyed eating and I would never be able to get used to eating only protein powder and cream no matter how fast I gained while doing so. So although I read and reread the many claims made for this revolutionary type of diet, I had never tried it myself.
Recently, my uncle had to see a doctor because of his cholesterol level. He was told that it was much too high and the doctor explained how my uncle was to try to relieve the condition by the proper diet and the proper exercise. In his diet, my uncle was told to consume only poly-unsaturated fats, not animal fats. He was told that there was contained in certain types of fats, a substance which would help reduce the cholesterol level and would also aid in the proper utilization and oxidation of body fat. He was given a list of foods to eat and was told to use either corn or safflower oil for cooking. This started me thinking. Was not this type of diet very similar to the protein and cream diet of the past bodybuilders? Was it primarily not a high protein and high fat diet?
Since by now my enthusiasm knew no bounds, I had to try such a diet on myself while using weight training as a physical catalyst. At the local heath foods store I purchased one quart of safflower oil and one container of 96% protein powder. My diet would consist primarily of protein supplements, various complete protein foods and no more than sixty grams of carbohydrates per day. As far as the high fat portion of my diet was concerned, I relied upon safflower oil used in cooking and corn oil margarine used throughout the day on my various foods with hopes that these measures would not only give me an abundant protein supply, but a high energy level (from the fats) and a desired well-roundedness (from the inclusion of the carbohydrates) which would insure proper weight loss, proper muscle growth and last but not least, proper energy level. The following paragraph shall explain the results of this experiment.
When I began to incorporate this training down procedure into my living habits at first I was alarmed at the amount of change I would have to undergo. Certain foods would have to be excluded from the diet, certain ones added. But after a while, when the results began to show, I knew I was on the right track and I did not mind the various inconveniences I had up to that point encountered. I ate approximately six meals per day and at each meal I would have some form of protein and some form of polyunsaturated fat. I would really take in the protein and I was always sure that my intake of water was adequate to insure proper ‘ventilation’ of the urinary tract. Thus I made sure that no protein waste was left over in the colon or liver, etc. My sources of carbohydrates were natural in content. A few pieces of fresh fruit and vegetables per day. My training was geared for bulk and power, high sets of low reps with limit poundages. I trained at a fast pace, not resting for more than two minutes for each set, and I trained three times per week.
In the beginning, my weight began to drop slowly but surely, from a high of 260 lbs. down to 248. Up until this time I had no trouble with either training energy or training poundages. Both were more than adequate. But as time went by and I began to lose more and more bodyweight the limit lifts also began to recede, once again, little by little. I did not let this deter me, however, and I continued on with my experiment, come what may. My squat had dropped from 515 at 260 lbs. down to 465 at a bodyweight of 245. I noticed that my training energy wasn’t lacking at all. It just seemed that the power just was not there the way it used to be and come what may, I just couldn’t shake the feeling that once again I was wrong with the method I had incorporated to bring about the sought after results.
Approximately five weeks ago I weighed in at 238. My squat was down to 425 lbs. My energy was more than adequate, however, at this time. It was then that I decided to use more of the fats in my diet. Three times per day, after each of my main meals, I would fill a whiskey glass with safflower oil and I would drink it down. I forced myself to bear the taste until now I don’t mind it at all. And suddenly things began to happen. First of all, my weight shot down to 228 in a matter of days. And for the first time since I began the experiment my lifts began to improve. Up, up, up went my squat. Down, down, down went bodyweight and most important of all, my waistline. And all the while I was simply overjoyed at the entire affair. It seemed that at last I had found the right way for me.
Today, at a bodyweight of 225, I squatted to just above parallel with 505 lbs. My waist is seven inches smaller than when I began the experiment. My chest is still 54” and my arms are almost 20”. My thighs are 31” measured while standing relaxed. I have about fifteen more pounds to lose and then my experiment will be over. In a few weeks I shall have reached my goal.
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